SMITHFIELD — Dylan and Maggie Bulmer glided around their family’s fabled roller rink Friday afternoon hanging spider webs and ghouls. The 8-year-old and 6-year-old were helping decorate for one of the biggest events of the season: the annual Halloween party, which concluded the rink’s 97th year in operation.

As one of just a handful of roller rinks in the state, Sunbeam Roller Rink in Smithfield is known in the area as a community hub, a safe place for children to hang out after school and the site where many a couple has fallen in love (and where one even got married). With windows overlooking North Pond, skaters who come at just the right time can bear witness to a beautiful sunset. Stepping through the door of the white clapboard barn-like building is like taking a step backward in time.

“There’s nothing fabulously special about this,” said Matt Bulmer, who manages the hardwood-floored rink with his wife, Kathy. “It’s wooden benches, it’s not comfortable, it doesn’t have a big video arcade inside, it’s just skating.”

But what has made the business endure nearly a century, the Bulmers agree, is its rural location, the nostalgia it triggers and its ability to bring generations together through a shared experience.

“I get a lot of parents who are like, ‘I used to skate here,’ and they bring their kids because they want their kids to skate here,” Matt Bulmer said.

His father and longtime rink owner Greg Bulmer, of Smithfield, said that roller skating has moved in and out of popularity since he bought the facility from founder Charlie Carpenter in 1978. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the pastime among younger people. Now, even wearing knee-high socks with skates appears to be back in style, said Kathy Bulmer.


Matt Bulmer, left, stands Friday with his father, Gary Bulmer, at the family’s Sunbeam Roller Rink in Smithfield. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

On a good day, Matt Bulmer said, the rink draws 100 skaters, and its capacity is roughly 120. Many patrons are regulars who come every week, paying an $8 entry fee to skate all night.

“We’ve had nights where that’s pretty much cleared out,” Kathy Bulmer said, pointing to long shelves of roller skates behind a counter.

Mostly, skaters come from Mercer, Oakland, Waterville, Skowhegan, Norridgewock, Waterville, Winslow, Rome, Belgrade, and various summer camps in the area, according to the Bulmers. Kathy said she loves seeing kids or families who live in different towns and school districts get a chance to engage with and befriend one another at the rink.

“There’s kind of a community,” Matt Bulmer agreed. “You see people from Skowhegan making friends with people from Winslow and there’s like a connection point here. But that’s how it was in the old days. Everybody knew everybody who was here, and they were always here. And then they would go down to Augusta or Winslow to skate at one of their rinks on another night. It was a big social thing. It feels a little like that again.”

Matt Bulmer’s parents and grandparents both met at the rink despite living in Farmington, New Sharon and Smithfield at the time.

Born into the family business, Matt Bulmer enjoyed skating – and being carried around by other skaters when he was small – but he didn’t think he wanted to get involved with it as an adult.


“I hated it when I was a kid,” he said. “Hate’s probably a strong word, but I said I would never run this place. But then I had my own kids, and things changed. They have fun when they come out and it’s a good place for kids to have good, clean fun – and there’s nostalgia for me, no doubt.”

Gary, Matt’s father, who had worked at the rink under its first owner, said he felt similarly when he was “pestered” into buying it. But as multiple family members attested to, Gary’s love for the place – and its community – is apparent.

Now an adult running the show, Matt has become somewhat of a mirror of his dad, well known by the children who frequent the facility – though he is quick to say his father’s personability cannot be matched.

“I’m not like Dad,” he said. “Dad knew all the kids and still remembers all their names and – he’s just one of those people. He still knows the kids now, I bet, to be completely honest. He’s just special that way. I don’t know if the kids would say they love me like they loved Dad. Dad still gets adults that will catch him in Walmart and be like, ‘Gary Bulmer!’ People still get excited to see Dad because of the rink.”

Matt said he is glad to be able to provide a space where people want to spend time together, even when they have other options for entertainment.

Sunbeam Roller Rink is open on Fridays from 7-10 p.m. from the beginning of May to the end of October and Wednesday nights in July and August.

The family said it has no plans to cease operations and expects to open again at the beginning of May.

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